Today was a very atypical day for the habitants of Konoha.
It certainly wasn't an everyday occurrence to see the wife and daughter of the one and only Senju Nawaki walking through the village.
The three-year-old girl was skipping excitedly through the crowded streets, hand in hand with her mother, completely oblivious to the commotion going on because of them.
Senju Sakura was so immerse in moving her little legs as fast as possible to reach her destination quickly, that she didn't notice the looks of awe and bows of utter respect directed at them, nor the kind words and best wishes to her mother, who could only greet back and smile apologetically while being dragged by the small girl.
If it was any other day, the little pink-haired girl would probably be interested in the odd behavior of the citizens or amazed by the several buildings and houses surrounding her. However, something more important was occupying her mind today.
Today, Senju Sakura was going to the park for the first time ever.
Since her father left, Sakura was almost never allowed to leave the Senju Compound – something about safety precautions and her father's enemies –. In fact, she only got out of her home to visit her grandparents who, unfortunately, travelled a lot.
Needless to say, the youngest Senju was dying to go to the park and make new friends.
The three-year-old girl didn't have any friends her age, the only friends she had were his cousins, who were at least four years older than her and would mainly take care of her, not play with her.
"Saku-chan, hold on! We are here." Sayumi called her daughter while trying to stop her.
The girl looked around the park excitedly before facing her mother, who kneeled in front of her.
Sayumi's eyes softened seeing how eager her daughter was. The little girl had been restless the past few months locked inside the compound, wanting nothing more than to go out. However, as much as she wanted to bring her to the park, she knew her husband's precautions were not in vain.
Senju Nawaki did not want his girls to leave the compound without the protection of at least two of their clan's ANBU.
The Senju clan only had seven ANBU agents and to have four of them without any mission at the same time was near impossible. Heck, even having two available was extremely rare and hiring ANBU from the government was out of the question, considering Danzo.
Sayumi was usually escorted by two jounin or an ANBU and a jounin. She could not afford to wait for two ANBU to be available, hshe had to make regular visits to the orphanage to make sure her son was being well treated and to accompany him, security measures be damned.
But, of course, Sayumi would never risk her daughter's safety, so she had planned this outing for months.
"I will be seated on the bank next to the sakura tree if you need anything, ok?" Sayumi said while running her fingers through her daughter's soft pink locks.
Sakura threw her tiny arms aroung her mother and kissed her cheek. "Thanks, Kaa-chan! I love you."
"I love you too, my Saku-chan. Now go and have fun, but please be careful." Sakura nodded in response and turned around to face the park.
Despite being really excited, the three-year-old was a little bit anxious. She wasn't sure where to begin with.
She carefully examined the park to decide what she should do.
There was a big group of kids running around the park chasing each other. The game seemed fun and Sakura wanted to play with them but soon discarded the idea. She was really nervous and asking if she could join a game she didn't even know to a bunch of unknown kids didn't seem the right choice.
Her other option was the three girls sitting on the edge of the sandbox. The youngest Senju wasn't fond of games that didn't involve running and jumping around, but she guessed that it was better than playing alone; at least she would make three new friends today.
However, when she started to approach the sandbox, someone else caught her attention.
She turned around; emerald eyes glanced over the small figure swaying back and forth on one of the swings. He was looking at the ground and all she could see was messy blonde hair covering the boy's face.
He looked really sad and, for some inexplicable reason, Sakura could not bare to see the unknown boy in so depressed. She had a strange – almost desperate – urge to approach him and make him smile.
So, with newly found determination, the little Senju made a dash for the swings; the three girls long forgotten.
Once she was close enough, Sakura cleared her throat softly before speaking up.
"Hi!" She greeted with a big grin. The small boy jumped a little bit at the sound of her voice, but nonetheless looked up.
He had a sun-toughened face framed by messy blonde locks, which oddly suited him, and unique whiskers adorning his cheeks. However what took her aback were his eyes, they were a brilliant blue – pretty similar to her mothers' – an intense blue that reflected the sky. Eyes that were vivid but also pained and red rimmed with tears.
Her heart constricted at the sight of the small boy. She wanted to hug and comfort him, but she knew she needed to gain his friendship first. "Hello." She repeated with a concerned frown, taking a few tiny steps so she could be in front of him.
The boy looked around as if trying to assure himself that the cute girl in front of him was indeed talking to someone like him.
"Um...hey." He responded with a raspy voice, still looking confused and a little wary of her.
"Why're you crying? Are you hurt?" She asked, digging in her pants pocket. She pulled out a tissue and handed it to him with a small smile.
The blonde boy could only look at the girl with a flabbergasted expression, not really sure how to react.
At his short age, he had learned that – almost – nobody really liked him.
In fact, he was pretty lucky if people just ignored him or avoided him. Unfortunately, most of the time, the blonde boy would be at the receiving end of horrible insults and cruel treatment – sometimes even physical abuse.
He was almost used to it – nobody really got used to being hated, he mused, but maybe it was possible to learn how to cope with it.
Suddenly, he felt something soft touching his skin cutting off his sad thoughts. He instinctively flinched, half expecting to be punched in the face.
"Hey…it's ok, I'm not gonna hurt you. I promise." Said Sakura with a soft voice; shifting so she could squad in front of him to wipe away his tears – trying to imitate what her mother does whenever she cries.
Was he dreaming? Was the girl in front of him real? Kids his age were never nice to him, far from that. Heck, even most adults treated him like he was worse than trash.
Should he trust her?
He knows from experience that he should not be fooled by kindness. How many times has he been tricked by fake sympathy only to be stabbed in the back? Some part of him wants to run away before she has the chance to hurt him.
However, he cannot bring himself to move, because he wants to trust her. Some part of him wants to believe in her so badly.
Maybe it was the genuine smile she wore when she greeted him or her big green eyes that showed nothing but authentic concern for him. Perhaps it is the fact that she looks like a miniature green-eyed version of the woman who regularly visits him – the one who is like a mother to him.
Whatever the reason is, he allows himself to trust her, he allows his walls to break and before he could even realize, tears started to fall once again from his eyes.
Sakura instinctively circled her chubby arms around him to hold him tightly. His head fell on her shoulder while she traced soothing circles in his back, whispering comforting words in his ear.
The little boy's sobs became louder at her reaction; he could not hold the tears any longer. Everything was just too much for the almost three-year-old boy.
He had been hated by everyone in the village as long as he could remember. He never understood why and it was slowly killing him.
Most of the time, he was all by himself, alone in a village where nobody could even bare the sight of him and it hurt. It hurt so much.
It pained him to know that he would only be acknowledged to be mistreated. People would always glare at him, whisper malicious things about him loudly or call him names while throwing things at him or even punching him.
"There it is, that monster child" "Beasts like it shouldn't be allowed to live." "We should kill it while it's still weak" "I hope you die, demon" "DEMON!"
He was used to crying alone. No one was ever there to comfort him.
But then this little pink-haired angel appears, showing genuinely concern for him and holding him like no one ever has.
Someone his age actually cared for him, someone he barely knew was trying her best to make him feel better, unconditionally.
She may not know this, but her embrace and comfort meant the world to the little boy. Because thanks to her – for the first time ever – some of his tears were tears of joy.
He smiled to himself while his sobs became less frequent as he started to calm down. Nonetheless, he returned the hug, holding her even tighter in his arms. Not ready to let her go just yet.
They stayed like that for a few minutes, until he stopped crying and his hold begun to lose.
She released him from her embrace to take out more tissues and wipe out the remaining tears from his face softly, just like her mother did. She beamed at him when she was done and then searched in her pocket once again. "Here, have this." She offered him a cherry lollipop. "It always makes me feel better!"
The little boy rubbed his eyes, looking at her for a few seconds before he took the candy. "Thanks!" He said pretty loudly, Sakura would have wince a little if it wasn't for the smile he gave her.
There was something special about the way he smiled that make her feel utterly happy and proud of being the reason behind it. Maybe it was the way it seemed to glow, to the point of almost blinding someone, like a ray of sunshine or perhaps it was the way his sky blue eyes would close a little, but lit up a thousand times more.
It was the kind of smile that would make you want to return it and, in that moment, Sakura promised herself that she would anything to keep that smile on his face as much as possible.
"Don't worry." She said, smiling back at him, while he devoured the lollipop. She stared at him, debating if she should ask him what was making him so sad. "Umm..." He looked at her tilting his head to indicate he was listening. She giggled at his reaction; the little blonde was too cute. "Why were you crying?" She asked hesitantly. He kept silent and she couldn't help but become really nervous. "I mean, you don't have to, I just wanna help you, you know? But if you don't wanna talk about it…"
She was interrupted by his chuckles. She puffed her already red cheeks, a little bit embarrassed and frustrated, which only made him laugh louder.
Once he calmed down, he stared at her or a second with pained eyes. "No one wanted to play with me." He said looking at the ground, before turning his head to glare at the large group of boys. "They were scared of losing against me, cause I'm awesome, dattebayo! They are a bunch of chickens!" He said indignantly, crossing his arms for emphasis.
Sakura smiled at him, admiring the way he could overcome sadness so easily and joke about something that clearly pained him. "I bet they are!" She said reassuringly, the boy smiled at her. "We'll play something funnier, anyways."
"We will?" He asked with hopeful eyes.
"Yeah! I'm Sakura by the way" She said smiling sheepishly, just remembering that they hadn't presented themselves.
"I'm Uzumaki Naruto!" the little boy screamed with a big grin while giving her a thumbs up.
Sakura's eyes flashed with recognition. "Your name's Naruto?" She asked enthusiastically.
"Naruto, dattebayo!" The blonde responded, nodding vigorously.
"Like the Utterly Gutsy Shinobi!" She almost screamed due to her excitement. "How cool!"
Naruto's grin became bigger. "You also like him?"
"'The Tale of the Utterly Gutsy Shinobi' is my favorite book ever!" She beamed. The only way little Sakura could fall sleep was if her mother read her that book or told her stories about her father. "Musasabi Naruto is awesomee!"
"Yeah! He's like the bestest hero ever!"
Sakura observed him carefully for a few seconds before adding: "You know what? You're like him Naruto!" She may not know the blonde that long, but she could see that he was as brave and as optimistic as the book's protagonist.
"You think so, Sakura-chan?" He asked with widen eyes, slightly red cheeks and a small, almost embarrassed, smile on his face.
"I know so!"
"If I'm Musasabi Naruto, then you're Tsuyu!" He declared, still smiling.
Sakura smirked. Yeah, she definitely liked the idea of being a jounin medic-nin with a fearful temper. Cha! "And I guess that means we are teammates….and friends." Naruto said hesitantly, his voice becoming quieter with each word.
"We're already friends and I guess that being teammates its the same" she said casually, shrugging
"W-we're fr-friends?" He asked, his eyes shining with hope.
"Yeah, we're friends, silly!" She beamed at him and he returned it without a second thought, his eyes filled with tears of joy. "Now, Musasabi-chan, we have a mission to complete, we have to find Momoashi Renge!" Sakura continued, trying to imitate a ninja stance.
Naruto grinned again, before nodding solemnly, also imitating a ninja. "Let's go, Tsuyu-chan!"
The two kids spent the rest of the afternoon running and jumping through the park, shouting jutsu after jutsu while fighting imaginary enemies.
Senju Sayumi stared fondly at the entertained pair. She could not believe that of all the children her daughter could have met, she had encountered with the energetic little blonde.
She had being concerned at first, how was it possible for an almost three-year-old to escape from the orphanage? She would surely pay them a visit tomorrow to let the managers know how she felt about their careless behavior towards her son.
However the anger quickly dissipated while watching the duo hug, with a smile that refused to leave her face.
She promised herself that she would try to convince the managers of the orphanage to let Naruto go to the Senju compound - his future home.
A/N: I AM SORRY, something weird happened when I updated this chapter but I already fixed it. AGAIN SORRY, I am really awful with this kind of things)
Soooo, this chapter is a bit different. It was actually a BIG challenge for me to consider how a 3-year-old should act/behave. Especially if they aren't regular toddlers, but ninja in training. I guessed that since some of them start to train at that age (like Hinata) they would be more mature and developed (?) than real world three-year-olds.
Aaand I'm sorry if I didn't put emphasis in their baby-like pronunciation (I actually hate to read that in fanfictions and in any other book for that matter, so I did not include it.) I hope they don't sound/act/behave too mature.
Anywaaay, Thank you so much for your reviews they help me a lot and brghten my day so thaaank youu! :) and again soorry.
PS: aaaand really guys, I need a BETA READER T.T I'm gettin desperate. :P